This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 10/13/2020 at 06:07:57 (UTC).

RODOLFO A. PINEDA, ET AL. VS JOANNA OTERO

Case Summary

On 01/25/2019 RODOLFO A PINEDA filed a Personal Injury - Uninsured Motor Vehicle lawsuit against JOANNA OTERO. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Spring Street Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is JON R. TAKASUGI. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******0851

  • Filing Date:

    01/25/2019

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Personal Injury - Uninsured Motor Vehicle

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Spring Street Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Judge

JON R. TAKASUGI

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs

PINEDA RODOLFO A.

PINEDA JUDY

Defendant

OTERO JOANNA

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorneys

PURCELL BYRON

VAYVAYAN SHANT

NAVARRO JULIO

Defendant Attorney

WOLLER JOHN S.

 

Court Documents

Amended Complaint - Amended Complaint (2nd)

10/5/2020: Amended Complaint - Amended Complaint (2nd)

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery...)

9/3/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery...)

Opposition (name extension) - Opposition PLAINTIFFS RENEWED OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT JOANNA OTEROS MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS' UNVERIFIED FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AN

8/21/2020: Opposition (name extension) - Opposition PLAINTIFFS RENEWED OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT JOANNA OTEROS MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS' UNVERIFIED FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AN

Opposition (name extension) - Opposition TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL RODOLFO A. PINEDA TO PROVIDE VERIFIED RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES, SET ONE; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES

8/21/2020: Opposition (name extension) - Opposition TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL RODOLFO A. PINEDA TO PROVIDE VERIFIED RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES, SET ONE; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES

Reply (name extension) - Reply TO PLAINTIFFS RENEWED OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS FIRST AMENDED UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLA

8/25/2020: Reply (name extension) - Reply TO PLAINTIFFS RENEWED OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS FIRST AMENDED UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT; MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES; DECLA

Amended Complaint - Amended Complaint First

12/23/2019: Amended Complaint - Amended Complaint First

Motion to Strike (not anti-SLAPP) - without Demurrer - Motion to Strike (not anti-SLAPP) - without Demurrer

2/26/2020: Motion to Strike (not anti-SLAPP) - without Demurrer - Motion to Strike (not anti-SLAPP) - without Demurrer

Motion to Compel (name extension) - Motion to Compel Responses

3/13/2020: Motion to Compel (name extension) - Motion to Compel Responses

Motion to Compel (name extension) - Motion to Compel Responses

3/13/2020: Motion to Compel (name extension) - Motion to Compel Responses

Minute Order - Minute Order (Court Order Re:)

3/19/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Court Order Re:)

Notice (name extension) - Notice of continuance FROG1 Rodolfo

3/26/2020: Notice (name extension) - Notice of continuance FROG1 Rodolfo

Notice (name extension) - Notice of continuance RFP Judy

3/26/2020: Notice (name extension) - Notice of continuance RFP Judy

Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order - Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

4/17/2020: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order - Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order - Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

4/17/2020: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order - Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

Reply (name extension) - Reply Defendant Joanna Oteros Reply to Plaintiffs Opposition to Defendants Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiffs Unverified Complaint Memorandum of Points and Authorities D

11/25/2019: Reply (name extension) - Reply Defendant Joanna Oteros Reply to Plaintiffs Opposition to Defendants Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiffs Unverified Complaint Memorandum of Points and Authorities D

Proof of Service by Substituted Service - Proof of Service by Substituted Service

3/19/2019: Proof of Service by Substituted Service - Proof of Service by Substituted Service

Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

1/25/2019: Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

1/25/2019: Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

41 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 01/28/2022
  • Hearing01/28/2022 at 10:30 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Order to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service

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  • 03/16/2021
  • Hearing03/16/2021 at 08:30 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Non-Jury Trial

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  • 10/05/2020
  • DocketAmended Complaint (2nd); Filed by: Rodolfo A. Pineda (Plaintiff); Judy Pineda (Plaintiff); As to: Joanna Otero (Defendant)

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  • 09/03/2020
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by: Joanna Otero (Defendant)

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  • 09/03/2020
  • DocketMinute Order (Hearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery...)

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  • 09/03/2020
  • DocketHearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery") scheduled for 09/03/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 09/03/2020; Result Type to Held

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  • 09/03/2020
  • DocketHearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery") scheduled for 09/03/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 09/03/2020; Result Type to Held

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  • 09/03/2020
  • DocketHearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery") scheduled for 09/03/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 09/03/2020; Result Type to Held

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  • 09/03/2020
  • DocketHearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery") scheduled for 09/03/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 09/03/2020; Result Type to Held

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  • 09/03/2020
  • DocketHearing on Motion to Strike (not anti-SLAPP) - without Demurrer scheduled for 09/03/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 09/03/2020; Result Type to Held

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70 More Docket Entries
  • 03/19/2019
  • DocketProof of Service by Substituted Service; Filed by: Rodolfo A. Pineda (Plaintiff); Judy Pineda (Plaintiff); As to: Joanna Otero (Defendant); Proof of Mailing Date: 03/14/2019; Service Cost: 126.00; Service Cost Waived: No

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  • 02/04/2019
  • DocketCase reassigned to Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Department 94 - Hon. James E. Blancarte; Reason: Inventory Transfer

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  • 01/28/2019
  • DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 07/24/2020 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 01/28/2019
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 01/28/2022 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 01/28/2019
  • DocketCase assigned to Hon. Jon R. Takasugi in Department 94 Stanley Mosk Courthouse

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  • 01/25/2019
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by: Rodolfo A. Pineda (Plaintiff); Judy Pineda (Plaintiff); As to: Joanna Otero (Defendant)

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  • 01/25/2019
  • DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: Rodolfo A. Pineda (Plaintiff); Judy Pineda (Plaintiff); As to: Joanna Otero (Defendant)

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  • 01/25/2019
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: Rodolfo A. Pineda (Plaintiff); Judy Pineda (Plaintiff); As to: Joanna Otero (Defendant)

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  • 01/25/2019
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: Rodolfo A. Pineda (Plaintiff); Judy Pineda (Plaintiff); As to: Joanna Otero (Defendant)

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  • 01/25/2019
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: Clerk

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: 19STLC00851    Hearing Date: September 03, 2020    Dept: 25

HEARING DATE: Thu., September 3, 2020 JUDGE /DEPT: Blancarte/25

CASE NAME: Pineda, et al. v. Otero COMPL. FILED: 01-25-19

CASE NUMBER: 19STLC00851 DISC. C/O: 02-14-21

NOTICE: OK MOTION C/O: 03-01-21

TRIAL DATE: 03-16-21

PROCEEDINGS: (1 & 2) MOTION TO COMPEL PLAINTIFF JUDY PINEDA TO PROVIDE VERIFIED RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES, SET ONE, AND DEMAND FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS, SET ONE, AND REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS

(3 & 4) MOTION TO COMPEL PLAINTIFF RODOLFO A. PINEDA TO PROVIDE VERIFIED RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES, SET ONE, AND DEMAND FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS, SET ONE, AND REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS

(5) MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLAINTIFFS’ UNVERIFIED FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

MOVING PARTY: Defendant Joanna Otero

RESP. PARTY: Plaintiffs Rodolfo A. Pineda and Judy Pineda

MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES AND REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS; REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS

(CCP § 2030.290; 2031.300)

MOTION TO STRIKE

(CCP § 435)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendant Joanna Otero’s motions to compel Plaintiffs to provide responses to Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Production of Documents, Set One, are DENIED AS MOOT. However, Defendant’s requests for sanctions are GRANTED in the amount of $630.00 to be paid within thirty (30) days of notice of this order.

In addition, Defendant’s Motion to Strike is GRANTED. Plaintiff is granted 30 DAYS’ LEAVE TO AMEND.

SERVICE:

[X] Proof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) OK (both)

[X] Correct Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) OK (both)

[X] 16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) OK (both)

Motions to Compel Discovery Responses

OPPOSITION: Filed on August 21, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

REPLY: Filed on August 25, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

Motion to Strike

OPPOSITION: Filed on March 17, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

REPLY: Filed on March 20, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

On January 25, 2019, Plaintiffs Rodolfo A. Pineda (“Rodolfo”) and Judy Pineda (“Judy”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed an action for motor vehicle negligence, general negligence, and intentional tort against Defendant Joanna Otero (“Defendant”).

On May 7, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to strike seeking to strike the third cause of action for intentional tort and the allegations and prayer for punitive damages. The Court granted Defendant’s motion with 20 days’ leave to amend on December 5, 2019. (12/5/19 Minute Order.)

On December 23, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). On February 26, 2020, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint (the “Motion to Strike”). On March 17, 2020, Plaintiffs filed an Opposition, and on March 20, 2020, Defendant filed a Reply.

In addition, on March 13, 2020, Defendant filed the following four motions: (1) Motion to Compel Plaintiff Judy Pineda to Provide Verified Responses to Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Sanctions; (2) Motion to Compel Plaintiff Judy Pineda to Provide Verified Responses to Demand for Production of Documents, Set One, and Request for Sanctions; (3) Motion to Compel Plaintiff Rodolfo A. Pineda to Provide Verified Responses to Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Sanctions; and (4) Motion to Compel Plaintiff Rodolfo A. Pineda to Provide Verified Responses to Demand for Production of Documents, Set One, and Request for Sanctions (collectively, the “Discovery Motions.”) No opposition was filed.

The Motion came up for hearing on July 22, 2020. At that time, the Court noted that Defendant’s counsel was unable to register in time to appear remotely, but submitted to the Court’s tentative ruling via email. (7/22/20 Minute Order.) However, after hearing oral argument from Plaintiffs’ counsel, the Court did not adopt its tentative ruling and instead continued the matter to September 3, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. (7/22/20 Minute Order.)

On August 21, 2020, Plaintiffs filed Oppositions to each of Defendant’s Discovery Motions and a Renewed Opposition to the Motion to Strike. On August 25, 2020, Defendant filed an objection to Plaintiffs’ Oppositions and a Reply to the Renewed Opposition.

  1. Discovery Motions

A. Legal Standard

A party must respond to interrogatories and requests for production of documents within 30 days after service. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.260, subd. (a); Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.260, subd. (a).) If a party to whom interrogatories or requests for production of documents are directed does not provide timely responses, the requesting party may move for an order compelling responses to the discovery. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.290, subd. (b); Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300, subd. (c).) The party also waives the right to make any objections, including one based on privilege or work-product protection. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.290, subd. (a); Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300, subd. (a).) There is no time limit for a motion to compel responses to interrogatories or production of documents other than the cut-off on hearing discovery motions 15 days before trial. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 2024.020, subd. (a), 2030.290; Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300.) No meet and confer efforts are required before filing a motion to compel responses to the discovery. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.290; Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300; Sinaiko Healthcare Consulting, Inc. v. Pacific Healthcare Consultants (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 390, 411.)

A. Discussion

Defendant’s counsel provides evidence he served both Plaintiff Rodolfo and Plaintiff Judy with Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Production of Documents, Set One, on June 17, 2019 via regular mail. (Discovery Motions, Woller Decl., ¶¶ 3, Exhs. A.) Although not statutorily required, on December 5, 2019, Defendant’s counsel sent Plaintiffs’ counsel a letter regarding the lack of discovery responses. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, Exhs. B.) As of the date the Discovery Motions were filed, Defendant had not received any responses to her discovery requests. (Id. at ¶¶ 5.)

In Opposition, Plaintiffs argue that because the discovery was not properly calendared when it was received, because the attorney previously handling the matter left Plaintiffs’ counsel’s office, and because obtaining responses was difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic, discovery responses were not timely served. (Oppositions, Navarro Decl., ¶¶ 4.) However, Plaintiffs’ evidence demonstrates that on July 1, 2020, Plaintiffs’ counsel electronically served verified responses to Defendant’s discovery requests. (Id. at ¶¶ 5, Exhs. A.) Defendant filed an objection to Plaintiffs’ Oppositions, arguing Plaintiffs were not granted leave to file opposition briefs. (Def. Objection, p. 4:4-13.) However, because the Court’s order does not specifically prevent Plaintiffs from filing opposition briefs and because the Oppositions were filed 9 days before the scheduled hearing, the Court declines to grant Defendant’s request to disregard the opposition briefs.

Plaintiffs argue the instant Discovery Motions are moot because, as noted above, responses were served on July 1, 2020. (Oppositions, p. 2.) Defendant argues the Discovery Motions are not moot because the responses provided are incomplete and contain waived objections. (Def. Objection, p. 4:22-25.) However, now that verified responses have been provided, the Court cannot compel initial responses under Code of Civil Procedure sections 2030.290, subdivision (b) and section 2031.300, subdivision (c). Instead, if Defendant is unhappy with the responses, the proper procedure would be to file a motion to compel further responses. Thus, as verified responses to Defendant’s discovery requests have already been provided, Defendant’s Discovery Motions are DENIED AS MOOT.

C. Sanctions

Code of Civil Procedure section 2023.030, subdivision (a) provides, in pertinent part, that the court may impose a monetary sanction on a party engaging in the misuse of the discovery process to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred by anyone as a result of that conduct. A misuse of the discovery process includes failing to respond or to submit to an authorized method of discovery. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2023.010, subd. (d).)

In Opposition, Plaintiffs argue that sanctions should be denied because they have already provided verified discovery responses. (Oppositions, p. 4-5.) However, a Court is permitted to award sanctions to a party who files a motion to compel even if the requested discovery is provided to the moving party after a discovery motion is filed. (California Rules of Court, rule 3.1348, subd. (a).)

The Court finds Plaintiffs’ failure to respond to Defendant’s discovery requests, first served on June 17, 2019, a misuse of the discovery process.

Defendant’s counsel requests a total of $1,800.00 in sanctions, which consists of eight hours of attorney time billed at $195.00 per hour and four filing fees of $60.00. (Discovery Motions, Woller Decl., ¶¶ 6.) However, the amount sought is excessive given the simplicity of these nearly identical motions. The Court finds $630.00 in sanctions, based on two hours of attorney time and four filing fees, to be reasonable. Plaintiffs are ordered to pay sanctions within thirty (30) days of notice of this order.

  1. Motion to Strike

A. Legal Standard

A motion to strike may be brought pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 435 and 436, which authorize a party’s motion to strike matter from an opposing party’s pleading if it is irrelevant, false, or improper. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 435; 436, subd. (a).) A motion to strike is used to address defects that appear on the face of a pleading or from judicially noticed matter but that are not grounds for a demurrer. (Pierson v. Sharp Memorial Hospital (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 340, 342; see also City & County of San Francisco v. Strahlendorf (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1911, 1913 (motion may not be based on a party's declaration or factual representations made by counsel in the motion papers).) The Code of Civil Procedure also authorizes the Court to act on its own initiative to strike matters, empowering the Court to enter orders striking matter “at any time in its discretion, and upon terms it deems proper.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 436.)

However, motions to strike in limited jurisdiction courts may only challenge pleadings on the basis that “the damages or relief sought are not supported by the allegations of the [pleading].” (Code Civ. Proc., § 92, subd. (d).)

Finally, Code of Civil Procedure section 435.5 requires that “[b]efore filing a motion to strike pursuant to this chapter, the moving party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who filed the pleading that is subject to the motion to strike for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached that resolves the objections to be raised in the motion to strike.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 435.5, subd. (a).)

B. Discussion

The Motion is accompanied by a meet and confer declaration as required by Code of Civil Procedure section 435.5. (Motion to Strike, Woller Decl., ¶ 3.) Defendant moves to strike Plaintiffs’ request for punitive/exemplary damages on the grounds that Plaintiffs did not plead sufficient facts that demonstrate an award of such damages is proper. (Motion to Strike, p. 2:1-10.)

“In order to survive a motion to strike an allegation of punitive damages, the ultimate facts showing an entitlement to such relief must be pled by a plaintiff.” (Clauson v. Superior Court (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 1253, 1255.) A request for punitive damages may be made pursuant to Civil Code section 3294, which provides that “[i]n an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.” (Civ. Code, § 3294, subd. (a).)

Under the statute, malice is defined as “conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others” and oppression is defined as “despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.” (Code Civ. Proc., 3294, subds. (c)(1), (2).) Although not defined in the statute, despicable conduct refers to circumstances that are base, vile, or contemptible. (College Hospital, Inc. v. Superior Court (1994) 8 Cal.4th 704, 725.) Also, “[u]nder the statute, malice does not require actual intent to harm…Conscious disregard for the safety of another may be sufficient where the defendant is aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his or her conduct and he or she willfully fails to avoid such consequences…. [Citation.]” (Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1270, 1299.)

Plaintiffs’ FAC alleges that “Defendant became intoxicated by drugs and alcohol with the full knowledge that said intoxication could lead to serious injury,” that she “became intoxicated with the full knowledge that such intoxication could lead to serious injury and damage to persons and/or property,” that the intoxication was willful and “done with an intentional, willful, and reckless disregard for the safety of plaintiff and others,” and that Defendant drove her vehicle “despite [her] knowledge of the safety hazard [she] created thereby.” (FAC, p. 6, ¶ EX-2.)

The “act of operating a vehicle while intoxicated may constitute an act of “malice” under section 3294 if performed under circumstances which disclose a conscious disregard of the probable dangerous consequences.” (Taylor v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal.3d 890, 892.) However, Plaintiffs fail to allege in their FAC any specific facts that demonstrate Defendant’s alleged conscious disregard of the probable dangerous consequences of her actions. Plaintiffs’ core allegation is that Defendant drove while intoxicated, but the remainder of the allegations are merely conclusory. (See FAC, p. 6, EX-2.) Plaintiffs allege and re-allege that Defendant consciously disregarded a probable danger by driving while intoxicated, but do not allege any facts that demonstrate this conscious disregard.

As previously noted by the Court in its December 5, 2019 Order, while ordinary intoxicated driving may create a risk of injury to others that is foreseeable, that risk is not necessarily probable. (12/5/19 Minute Order; Dawes v. Superior Court (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 82, 89.) In Dawes, the Court found that the defendant’s decision to “zig-zag in and out of traffic at 65 miles per hour in a crowded beach recreation area at 1:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday in June” was sufficient to support a claim for punitive damages. (Id.) In Taylor, the allegations that a defendant was an alcoholic who was well-aware of the nature of his alcoholism, had a history of and tendency to drive a motor vehicle while intoxicated, had previously caused an accident while driving while intoxicated, had been arrested and convicted on various other occasions for driving while intoxicated, had recently completed a period of probation for a drunk driving conviction, had his probation conditioned on refraining from driving for at least 6 hours after drinking, and had additional pending criminal charges for driving under the influence were sufficient to support a claim of punitive damages. (Taylor v. Superior Court, supra, 24 Cal.3d at p. 893.)

Both of these cases demonstrate the specificity required to support a claim of punitive damages. Plaintiffs’ FAC does not meet this level of specificity. Thus, Defendant’s Motion to Strike is GRANTED WITH 30 DAYS’ LEAVE TO AMEND.

  1. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Joanna Otero’s motions to compel Plaintiffs to provide responses to Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Production of Documents, Set One, are DENIED AS MOOT. However, Defendant’s requests for sanctions are GRANTED in the amount of $630.00 to be paid within thirty (30) days of notice of this order.

In addition, Defendant’s Motion to Strike is GRANTED. Plaintiff is granted 30 DAYS’ LEAVE TO AMEND.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 19STLC00851    Hearing Date: July 22, 2020    Dept: 25

MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONSES TO FORM INTERROGATORIES AND REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS; REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS

(CCP § 2030.290; 2031.300)

MOTION TO STRIKE

(CCP §§ 435, 436)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendant Joanna Otero’s motions to compel Plaintiffs to provide responses to Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Production of Documents, Set One, are GRANTED. Plaintiffs are ordered to provide verified responses without objections within thirty (30) days of notice of this order. In addition, Defendant’s request for sanctions is also GRANTED in the amount of $630.00 to be paid within thirty (30) days of notice of this order.

Furthermore, Defendant’s Motion to Strike is GRANTED. Plaintiff is granted 20 DAYS’ LEAVE TO AMEND.

SERVICE:

[X] Proof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) OK (both)

[X] Correct Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) OK (both)

[X] 16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) OK (both)

Motions to Compel Discovery Responses

OPPOSITION: None filed as of July 20, 2020 [ ] Late [X] None

REPLY: None filed as of July 20, 2020 [ ] Late [X] None

Motion to Strike

OPPOSITION: Filed on March 17, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

REPLY: Filed on March 20, 2020 [ ] Late [ ] None

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

On January 25, 2019, Plaintiffs Rodolfo A. Pineda (“Rodolfo”) and Judy Pineda (“Judy”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed an action for motor vehicle negligence, general negligence, and intentional tort against Defendant Joanna Otero (“Defendant”).

On May 7, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to strike seeking to strike the third cause of action for intentional tort and the allegations and prayer for punitive damages. The Court granted Defendant’s motion with 20 days’ leave to amend on December 5, 2019. (12/5/19 Minute Order.)

On December 23, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). On February 26, 26, 2020, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint (the “Motion to Strike”). On March 17, 2020, Plaintiffs filed an Opposition, and on March 20, 2020, Defendant filed a Reply.

In addition, on March 13, 2020, Defendant filed the following four motions: (1) Motion to Compel Plaintiff Judy Pineda to Provide Verified Responses to Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Sanctions; (2) Motion to Compel Plaintiff Judy Pineda to Provide Verified Responses to Demand for Production of Documents, Set One, and Request for Sanctions; (3) Motion to Compel Plaintiff Rodolfo A. Pineda to Provide Verified Responses to Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Sanctions; and (4) Motion to Compel Plaintiff Rodolfo A. Pineda to Provide Verified Responses to Demand for Production of Documents, Set One, and Request for Sanctions (collectively, the “Discovery Motions.”) To date, no opposition has been filed.

  1. Discovery Motions

A. Legal Standard & Discussion

 

A party must respond to interrogatories and requests for production of documents within 30 days after service. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.260, subd. (a); Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.260, subd. (a).) If a party to whom interrogatories or requests for production of documents are directed does not provide timely responses, the requesting party may move for an order compelling responses to the discovery. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.290, subd. (b); Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300, subd. (c).) The party also waives the right to make any objections, including one based on privilege or work-product protection. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.290, subd. (a); Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300, subd. (a).) There is no time limit for a motion to compel responses to interrogatories or production of documents other than the cut-off on hearing discovery motions 15 days before trial. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 2024.020, subd. (a), 2030.290; Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300.) No meet and confer efforts are required before filing a motion to compel responses to the discovery. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.290; Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300; Sinaiko Healthcare Consulting, Inc. v. Pacific Healthcare Consultants (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 390, 411.)

Here, Defendant served both Plaintiff Rodolfo and Plaintiff Judy with Form Interrogatories, Set One, and Request for Production of Documents, Set One, on June 17, 2019 via regular mail. (Discovery Motions, Woller Decl., ¶¶ 3, Exhs. A.) Although not statutorily required, on December 5, 2019, Defendant’s counsel sent Plaintiffs’ counsel a letter regarding the lack of discovery responses. (Id. at ¶¶ 4, Exhs. B.) To date, Defendant has not received any responses to her discovery requests. (Id. at ¶¶ 5.) Thus, Defendant is entitled to an order compelling Plaintiffs to provide verified responses to the Form Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents without objections. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.290, subd. (b); Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.300, subd. (c).)

C. Sanctions

Code of Civil Procedure section 2023.030, subdivision (a) provides, in pertinent part, that the court may impose a monetary sanction on a party engaging in the misuse of the discovery process to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred by anyone as a result of that conduct. A misuse of the discovery process includes failing to respond or to submit to an authorized method of discovery. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2023.010, subd. (d).)

The Court finds Plaintiffs’ failure to respond to Defendant’s discovery requests a misuse of the discovery process.

Defendant’s counsel requests a total of $1,800.00 in sanctions, which consists of eight hours of attorney time billed at $195.00 per hour and four filing fees of $60.00. (Discovery Motions, Woller Decl., ¶¶ 6.) However, the amount sought is excessive given the simplicity of these nearly identical motions and the lack of opposition and reply. The Court finds $630.00 in sanctions, based on two hours of attorney time and four filing fees, to be reasonable. Plaintiffs are to pay sanctions within thirty (30) days of notice of this order.

  1. Motion to Strike

A. Legal Standard

A motion to strike may be brought pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 435 and 436, which authorize a party’s motion to strike matter from an opposing party’s pleading if it is irrelevant, false, or improper. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 435; 436, subd. (a).) A motion to strike is used to address defects that appear on the face of a pleading or from judicially noticed matter but that are not grounds for a demurrer. (Pierson v. Sharp Memorial Hospital (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 340, 342; see also City & County of San Francisco v. Strahlendorf (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1911, 1913 (motion may not be based on a party's declaration or factual representations made by counsel in the motion papers).) The Code of Civil Procedure also authorizes the Court to act on its own initiative to strike matters, empowering the Court to enter orders striking matter “at any time in its discretion, and upon terms it deems proper.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 436.)

However, motions to strike in limited jurisdiction courts may only challenge pleadings on the basis that “the damages or relief sought are not supported by the allegations of the [pleading].” (Code Civ. Proc., § 92, subd. (d).)

Finally, Code of Civil Procedure section 435.5 requires that “[b]efore filing a motion to strike pursuant to this chapter, the moving party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who filed the pleading that is subject to the motion to strike for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached that resolves the objections to be raised in the motion to strike.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 435.5, subd. (a).)

B. Discussion

 

As an initial matter, the Court notes that the Motion to Strike is accompanied by a meet and confer declaration as required by Code of Civil Procedure section 435.5. (Motion to Strike, Woller Decl., ¶ 3.) Defendant moves to strike Plaintiffs’ request for punitive/exemplary damages on the grounds that Plaintiffs did not plead sufficient facts that demonstrate an award of such damages is proper. (Motion to Strike, p. 2:1-10.)

“In order to survive a motion to strike an allegation of punitive damages, the ultimate facts showing an entitlement to such relief must be pled by a plaintiff.” (Clauson v. Superior Court (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 1253, 1255.) A request for punitive damages may be made pursuant to Civil Code section 3294, which provides that “[i]n an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.” (Civ. Code, § 3294, subd. (a).)

Under the statute, malice is defined as “conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others” and oppression is defined as “despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.” (Code Civ. Proc., 3294, subds. (c)(1), (2).) Although not defined in the statute, despicable conduct refers to circumstances that are base, vile, or contemptible. (College Hospital, Inc. v. Superior Court (1994) 8 Cal.4th 704, 725.) Also, “[u]nder the statute, malice does not require actual intent to harm…Conscious disregard for the safety of another may be sufficient where the defendant is aware of the probable dangerous consequences of his or her conduct and he or she willfully fails to avoid such consequences…. [Citation.]” (Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1270, 1299.)

Plaintiffs’ FAC alleges that “Defendant became intoxicated by drugs and alcohol with the full knowledge that said intoxication could lead to serious injury,” that she “became intoxicated with the full knowledge that such intoxication could lead to serious injury and damage to persons and/or property,” that the intoxication was willful and “done with an intentional, willful, and reckless disregard for the safety of plaintiff and others,” and that Defendant drove her vehicle “despite [her] knowledge of the safety hazard [she] created thereby.” (FAC, p. 6, ¶ EX-2.)

The “act of operating a vehicle while intoxicated may constitute an act of “malice” under section 3294 if performed under circumstances which disclose a conscious disregard of the probable dangerous consequences.” (Taylor v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal.3d 890, 892.) However, Plaintiffs fail to allege in their FAC any specific facts that demonstrate Defendant’s alleged conscious disregard of the probable dangerous consequences of her actions. Plaintiffs’ core allegation is that Defendant drove while intoxicated, but the remainder of the allegations are merely conclusory. (See FAC, p. 6, EX-2.) Plaintiffs allege and re-allege that Defendant consciously disregarded a probable danger by driving while intoxicated, but do not allege any facts that demonstrate this conscious disregard.

As previously noted by the Court in its December 5, 2019 Order, while ordinary intoxicated driving may create a risk of injury to others that is foreseeable, that risk is not necessarily probable. (12/5/19 Minute Order; Dawes v. Superior Court (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 82, 89.) In Dawes, the Court found that the defendant’s decision to “zig-zag in and out of traffic at 65 miles per hour in a crowded beach recreation area at 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon on a Sunday in June” was sufficient to support a claim for punitive damages. (Id.) In Taylor, the allegations that a defendant was an alcoholic who was “well aware of the nature of his alcoholism,” had a history of and tendency to drive a motor vehicle while intoxicated, had previously caused an accident while driving while intoxicated, had been arrested and convicted on various other occasions for driving while intoxicated, had recently completed a period of probation for a drunk driving conviction, a condition of his probation was that he refrain from driving for at least 6 hours after driving, and that defendant was facing additional criminal charges for driving under the influence. (Taylor v. Superior Court, supra, 24 Cal.3d at p. 893.)

Both of these cases demonstrate the specificity required to support a claim of punitive damages. Undoubtedly, Plaintiffs’ FAC does not meet this level of specificity. Thus, Defendant’s Motion to Strike is GRANTED WITH 20 DAYS’ LEAVE TO AMEND.

  1. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Joanna Otero’s Discovery Motions to compel Plaintiffs to provide responses to Form Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents is GRANTED. Plaintiffs are ordered to provide verified responses without objections within thirty (30) days of notice of this order. In addition, Defendant’s request for sanctions is also GRANTED in the reduced amount of $630.00 to be paid within thirty (30) days of notice of this order.

Furthermore, Defendant’s Motion to Strike is GRANTED. Plaintiff is granted 20 DAYS’ LEAVE TO AMEND.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 19STLC00851    Hearing Date: December 05, 2019    Dept: 94

MOTION TO STRIKE

(CCP § 436)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendant Joanna Otero’s Motion to Strike Portions of the Complaint is GRANTED WITH 20 DAYS’ LEAVE TO AMEND.

SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT: Action for motor vehicle negligence and intentional tort.

BASIS OF MOTION: Strike cause of action for intentional tort and request for punitive damages as unsupported by the law.

OPPOSITION: The allegations of driving while intoxicated and fleeing the scene of the accident support the third cause of action and request for exemplary damages.

REPLY: None filed as of December 2, 2019.

ANALYSIS:

Plaintiffs Rodolfo A. Pineda and Judy Pineda (“Plaintiffs”) filed the instant action for negligence, motor vehicle negligence, and intentional tort against Defendant Joanna Otero (“Defendant”) on January 25, 2019. Defendant filed the instant Motion to Strike on May 7, 2019. Plaintiff filed their opposition on November 15, 2019.

Overview of Relevant Law

California law authorizes a party’s motion to strike matter from an opposing party’s pleading if it is irrelevant, false, or improper. (CCP §§ 435; 436(a).) Motions may also target pleadings or parts of pleadings which are not filed or drawn in conformity with applicable laws, rules or orders. (CCP § 436(b).) Motions to strike in limited jurisdiction courts may only challenge pleadings on the basis that “the damages or relief sought are not supported by the allegations of the complaint.” (CCP § 92(d).) A motion to strike is used to address defects that appear on the face of a pleading or from judicially noticed matter but that are not grounds for a demurrer. (Pierson v. Sharp Memorial Hospital (1989) 216 Cal.App.3d 340, 342; see also City & County of San Francisco v. Strahlendorf (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1911, 1913 (motion may not be based on a party's declaration or factual representations made by counsel in the motion papers).)

In particular, a motion to strike can be used to attack the entire pleading or any part thereof – in other words, a motion may target single words or phrases, unlike demurrers. (Warren v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. (1971) 19 Cal.App.3d 24, 40.) California’s policy of liberal construction applies to motions to strike. (CCP § 452; see also Duffy v. Campbell (1967) 250 Cal.App.2d 662, 666 (noting that courts must resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of the pleading when considering a motion to strike).) The Code of Civil Procedure also authorizes the Court to act on its own initiative to strike matters, empowering the Court to enter orders striking matter “at any time in its discretion, and upon terms it deems proper.” (CCP § 436.)

Finally, CCP section 435.5 requires that “[b]efore filing a motion to strike pursuant to this chapter, the moving party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who filed the pleading that is subject to the motion to strike for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached that resolves the objections to be raised in the motion to strike.” (CCP § 435.5(a).)

Discussion

Defendant moves to strike the third cause of action for intentional tort and the allegations and prayer with respect to punitive damages on the grounds that they do not meet the statutory requirements.

Punitive damages are authorized by Civil Code section 3294 in non-contract cases “where the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, express or implied . . . .” (Civil Code, § 3294, subd. (a).) Malice means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others. (Civil Code, § 3294, subd. (c)(1).) Oppression means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights. (Civil Code, § 3294, subd. (c)(2).) Finally, fraud means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the party of the defendant of thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury. (Civil Code, § 3294, subd. (c)(3).)

In Taylor v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal. 3d 890, 894, the California Supreme Court held that driving while intoxicated can, under certain circumstances, support an award of punitive damages because it evidences malice. (Taylor v. Superior Court (1979) 24 Cal. 3d 890.) Specifically, the complaint in Taylor alleged that:

[Defendant ]Stille is, and for a substantial period of time had been, an alcoholic “well aware of the serious nature of his alcoholism” and of his “tendency, habit, history, practice, proclivity, or inclination to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol”; and that Stille was also aware of the dangerousness of his driving while intoxicated.

The complaint further alleged that Stille had previously caused a serious automobile accident while driving under the influence of alcohol; that he had been arrested and convicted for drunken driving on numerous prior occasions; that at the time of the accident herein, Stille had recently completed a period of probation which followed a drunk driving conviction; that one of his probation conditions was that he refrain from driving for at least six hours after consuming any alcoholic beverage; and that at the time of the accident in question he was presently facing an additional pending criminal drunk driving charge.

 

(Id. at 893.) Furthermore, in Dawes v. Superior Court (Mardian) (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 82, 89-90, the Court of Appeals noted that facts on this level are distinguishable from facts that merely allege driving while intoxicated. (Dawes v. Superior Court (Mardian) (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 82.) “Ordinary intoxicated driving” may create a risk of injury to others that is foreseeable, but not necessarily probable. (Ibid.) In Dawes, the defendant was alleged to have made a “decision to zigzag in and out of traffic at 65 miles per hour in a crowded beach recreation area at 1:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday in June.” (Id. at 89.) These allegations also support a claim for punitive damages. (Id. at 89-90.)

Here, Plaintiffs only alleges that Defendant was driving while intoxicated. (Complaint, p. 6.) There are no additional facts alleged to demonstrate that Defendant was aware of the dangerousness of her driving while intoxicated; conclusory allegations to that effect are insufficient. Allegations that Defendant drove while heavily intoxicated fail to demonstrate malicious conduct on par with the allegations in Taylor and Dawes. Nor does the additional allegation that Defendant fled the scene, nearly striking Plaintiffs and their vehicle as she did so, demonstrate the requisite level of malice. Such conduct indicates that Defendant was aware of the negative implications her conduct would have to herself, not of the probable risk of harm to others. And there are no allegations that by fleeing the scene, Defendant caused more harm to Plaintiffs; rather, the harm had already been done.

Finally, there is no cause of action for “intentional tort.” Neither the allegations in the Complaint, nor the opposition provide clarity as to what tort is meant to be stated in the third cause of action.

Defendant Joanna Otero’s Motion to Strike Portions of the Complaint is GRANTED WITH 20 DAYS’ LEAVE TO AMEND.

Moving party to give notice.